In the nation’s capital city, it is legal for a person who is 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and use it on private property, and it is legal to give an ounce or less to another adult, but it is illegal to sell or trade marijuana.
The illegality of selling has resulted in what are called pop-up parties. Advertised on social media and Eventbrite, the parties take place on private property. Buyers buy various goods, sometimes stickers or trinkets or other common household items, and along with the item, marijuana is given to the buyer as a gift.
Advertisements for pop-up parties are not hard to find. One cursory search found several parties, including one listed as a fundraiser for homeless women and youth. The goal: To buy a house to be used as a shelter. The announcement indicates that there will be a presentation and request for funds. Another advertisement has an entrepreneurial spirit; the presentations will focus on starting and growing a business. A third event advertises packages of beef for summer barbecues. Others focus on women’s fashion and networking.
The police, however, do not call this giving, and they raid pop-up parties, arrest vendors and perhaps those in attendance as well, and confiscate the marijuana. At one recent event, police seized pounds of bud, additional pounds of edibles, and quarts of oils. At another event, police claim they confiscated $10,000 in cash as well as guns. For vendors, a bust can be devastating, since the vendor’s inventory and cash may be seized and the vendor arrested.
Washington’s Weird Laws
As a city without a state, Washington, D.C., is governed under an unusual legal structure. It has a mayor and city council, but any laws that the city government passes must be approved by the U.S. Congress. In 2014, the city’s voters passed Initiative 71, which legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana as described above. Republicans in Congress opposed the measure, even making threats against the mayor. But thanks to a missed congressional budget deadline, Washington’s legalization measure became law by default.
In the nation’s capital as elsewhere in the United States, federal law continues to prohibit the possession or use of any amount of marijuana. As a result, federal law enforcement officers may arrest anyone in the city for possession or use of any amount. The city’s parks, for example, are under federal jurisdiction, and the U.S. Park Police may arrest anyone they catch with marijuana in a federal park.
Although pop-up parties are easy for police to raid, given that they are advertised, the police say they are not making a special effort to shut the parties down. Instead, the police claim that they raid the parties only when there is a complaint, for example from a neighbor. While it remains risky for vendors and potential buyers to attend pop-up parties, the internet makes it clear that the parties are continuing to pop up across Washington, D.C.
The tide seems to be turning in Washington, however. Federal decriminalization and legalization bills are currently under consideration in Congress, and as more states legalize without many resulting problems, the momentum seems to be on the side of legalization even at the federal level. But for now, pop-up parties remain illegal.
What do you think? Will federal legalization happen soon? Leave a comment below.